Confessions of an 80’s Hairspray Addict

Robert Smith Disintegration


I have a confession and I really hate to admit it, but I was one of the worst contributors who helped tear a massive hole in the ozone layer in the mid to late 1980’s.

I was a hairspray addict, as were most of my peers in the 1980’s.

Aqua NetBeing teenage girls in the 1980’s, we loved our big cans of Aqua Net and Rave as we curled, crimped and teased our hair and pulled our bangs up to the crazy “mall-bang” trend teen pop artists like Debbie Gibson and Tiffany made popular. As a teen, I think we all used Aqua Net and Rave because they were cheap (and still are!) and easy to acquire from any store.

Poufy hair with tons of highlights, perms and sky-high bangs, were the most popular hairstyle trends of the mid-to-late 1980’s for women.

Around 1986, when the glam hair metal bands like Poison, Bon Jovi and Cinderella came screaming into the forefront of the music industry, some guys also found the joy of perms, highlights and aerosol hair spray. I admit, I was jealous – some of these guys had better hair than I did!

I wasn’t a mall-bang or head banging hair trend follower – I was a new wave punk rock chick, and my hair was the main canvas with which I expressed this individuality.

Pazazz ad

My sacred cans of Aqua Net, of which I would (sadly) spray through a bottle a week, along with my red and purple hues of Clairol Pazazz hair color, were the main ingredients to my awesome punk rock hair. I disposed of my trusty curling iron and styling mousse from junior high and replaced them with a crimper and styling gel – lots of styling gel.

robert and siouxsieRobert Smith of The Cure and Siouxsie Sioux were my very own musical hair icons. The messier and spikier I could get my hair, the better!

My first punk rock hairstyle was styled longer on the left side and always worn crimped, with my bangs covering my face; the right side was cut a lot shorter, perfect for spiking.

It took me a while to get my styling routine and time down when I started grooming my punk rock hair. After a few weeks of styling, I had my routine down to a science and my hair reacted as if I trained it to stand up and spike on command

I would spray down the right side of my head until I felt drips on my shoulder, then I would take my vent brush and swipe up from my neck to the top of my head and voilà! – spiked hair. The crimping of my luscious locks took a bit longer, but was well worth the effort. I proudly went through one and sometimes two cans of Aqua Net or Rave a week.

I wasn’t kidding when I said I was a hairspray addict.

my awesome punk rock hair
My awesome punk rock hair in fall 1988

Not long after I started styling my hair in this new fashion, my mother had a fit. She wasn’t happy that I identified with being punk and wore my hair as such. I had to move the spiking part of my hair routine to my locker at school.

I was the only punk in my class, so naturally I was labeled the freak. I completely embraced that role. People would watch in amazement as I spiked my hair at my locker. Within two minutes, my hair was spiked and ready to take on the day.

Going home after school was another story. My same trusty vent brush which helped me achieve new heights with my hair, was then used to flatten my cool style. It was a snowstorm of hairspray flakes all over my black wardrobe. Thank goodness I almost always walked home from school and had time to clean up.

Months later, my school wouldn’t allow me to appear with our scholastic team on TV unless I looked normal. I had my hair colored a normal flat black and the cut was evened out. Sadly, my parents supported the school’s decision instead of my right to individuality.

Being a creative and industrious young punk rocker, I made use of my new hair canvas. I opted for a Robert Smith look of an all-over messy spike, which I referred to as “Smithing” my hair.

Studio Line spray

I graduated from using Aqua Net and Rave shortly after I discovered Studio Line from L’Oréal (go on, sing the commercial, you know you remember it!), and my all-time favorite late 1980’s hair product line, Bold Hold. In addition to having an awesome non-aerosol hairspray called spritz (yay for no ozone damage!), Bold Hold had clarifying shampoo and intensive conditioner to help repair the damage punk rock did to my hair.

Bold Hold ad

While I wasn’t destroying the ozone layer anymore with constant use of aerosol hairspray, I was damaging my hair with the perpetual crimping, spiking, spraying and coloring.

I aspired to doing the enviable punk rock liberty spikes some of the more hardcore punks wore – and I succeeded a few times with the help of Knox unflavored (clear) gelatin and Elmer’s Glue (what a mess!)

hot mohawk punk rock guysI also pined over sporting a mohawk. I have a thing for punk rock guys with mohawks to this day, but that’s an entirely different story.

I think back on all the abuse I put my hair through in the 80’s and I cringe. I still color my hair red, but these days it’s done with an organic brand of color with minimal damage done to my fragile middle-aged hair.

I miss “Smithing” my hair and recently entertained the thought of doing it one more time, for old times’ sake, as I stood in the hair aisle of Target staring at a bottle of Aqua Net, which read “50% more free!” I wondered if my hair would remember the style and obey my brush or if it would be its own style of punk rock and defy my styling commands.

To help protect what is left of the ozone layer and my thin, brittle (style damaged over the years) hair, I instead opted for a skull do-rag wrapped up and tied in my messy, wavy styled hair. That’s the new middle-aged punk rock style for me.

In honor and memory of 80’s-90’s Post Punk hair, I’ve assembled this playlist – complete with commercials! Have fun and buckle your seat belts for a ride on the time warp express!


  1. Studio Line commercial
  2. Why Can’t I Be You? – The Cure 
  3. Peek-a-Boo – Siouxsie & The Banshees
  4. Behind the Wheel – Depeche Mode
  5. True Faith – New Order
  6. Ask – The Smiths
  7. Wasteland – The Mission
  8. Delicious Demon – The Sugarcubes
  9. Watching The Detectives – Elvis Costello
  10. Windmere Crimper Commercial
  11. Holiday in Cambodia – The Dead Kennedys
  12. Institutionalized – Suicidal Tendencies
  13. Punk Rock Girl – The Dead Milkmen
  14. Garbage Man – The Cramps
  15. Love is the Slug – Fuzzbox
  16. She’s My Man – Sigue Sigue Sputnik
  17. Clairol Pazazz Commercial
  18. So Alive – Love and Rockets
  19. Smash It Up – The Damned
  20. One Step Beyond – Madness
  21. Over The Shoulder – Ministry
  22. Bold Hold Commercial
  23. Moya – Southern Death Cult
  24. The Cutter – Echo and The Bunnymen
  25. Happy When it Rains – Jesus and Mary Chain
  26. Birth, School, Work, Death – The Godfathers
  27. Mexican Radio – Wall of Voodoo
  28. My Heart Goes Bang – Dead or Alive
  29. Chains of Love – Erasure
  30. Eighties – Killing Joke